A man faces stiff consequences this week thanks to viral footage of his interaction with an African American teenager. The video shows Luis Santos pull up next to the 18-year-old in the early hours of June 8 and accuse him of theft. The camera continues rolling as the Florida man illegally detains the black youth and calls the police with phony accusations against him. Now, it’s Santos who’s facing legal repercussions from the incident.
The teen was riding his bike to an early-morning basketball practice when Santos stopped him at 5:34 am, reports Fox 23 news. Video apparently shot by Santos himself shows him pull up beside the boy in an automobile.
“You work here?” Santos asks the teen. “You live here?”
After getting the teen to reveal his full address, Santos tells him, “You’re not going anywhere,” while stepping out of the car. “You’re being detained,” he continues.
Audio from Santos’ 911 call, released by the Hillsborough State Attorney’s office, documents the rest of the encounter. On the tape, Santos falsely claims to have footage of the teen — “a black guy,” as he says — breaking into cars and stealing property. He also identifies himself, misleadingly, as an off-duty officer.
In fact, Santos is a former security guard who recently left a position at a local theme park, reports ABC News.
No Evidence of Crime
Upon arriving at the scene, police found no evidence of the crimes Santos reported. What they did find was the teen visibly shaken and hyperventilating with his hands still raised in the air. According to a criminal affidavit, Santos had his hand placed near his pants pocket during the confrontation in a “manner that made the victim feel as if the defendant may have a weapon, even though none was seen.”
Police quickly realized that while the teenage boy was innocent, Santos had potentially committed a crime. They immediately referred the case to the State Attorney’s office.
“What happened that morning should upset everyone in our community,” State Attorney Andrew Warren said in a statement. “We have skilled police officers — we don’t need vigilantes confronting people on the street.”
While Warren called the incident “a case of racial profiling,” prosecutors confirmed on July 19 that it’s not being classified as a hate crime.
ABC News also reports that, because Santos’ security officer certification had not yet expired during the incident, he will not be charged with impersonating a police officer. He is, however, facing charges of third-degree false imprisonment. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison. Santos currently awaits a court date after posting $2,000 in bail.
“There have been recent examples of confrontations like this across the country that have ended tragically,” Warren said. “The fact that this didn’t end with a loss of life doesn’t make it any less of a crime. What Mr. Santos did is unacceptable and illegal — now he’ll face consequences for his actions.”